Is a rain chain the answer to all your gutter problems?

Not only functional, but beautiful as well.
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While downpipes are the norm for most roofs, a rain chain is a decorative alternative that can be a stylish addition to your home’s exterior. Rain (or drain) chains typically hang down from the guttering and come it a variety of designs. But there’s more to them than meets the eye.

Rain chains also perform a vital function, connecting to your roof’s guttering, and channeling water down the metal links. Depending on your guttering and location, this could replace the need for a downpipe and can be a very effective way to watering flowers and plants you’ve placed underneath the chain.

They are also extremely effective in slowing the flow of rainwater, reducing the possibility of flooding during particularly heavy rainfall

What is a rain chain used for? 

The primary function of a rain chain is channelling water but people may also get them for aesthetic reasons.

Also called ‘kusari doi’ or ‘rain gutter’, they originate from Japan and were used as a sustainable way to collect rainwater. Rain would funnel down the attached chains into buckets and containers. This rainwater could then be used to water gardens and plants and even filtered for cooking.

As well as being a visual feature, they make a beautiful splashing noise when it rains, as the water runs down the metal links. 

They can also supply water to water features, like ponds, or can be sent directly to irrigation set ups and established rain gardens

A rain chain with a flower-like design.
(Credit: Getty)

How to install a rain chain

The first step is to get a rain chain. This could be as simple as recycling a chain you have in the garden shed, which will add a rustic, countryside aesthetic to your outdoor styling. You can also purchase ready-made chains in a variety of designs. Some may be so decorative that your guests won’t even realise how functional it is (unless it rains or you tell them).

After choosing a design, the installation process is relatively easy.

You’ll need to drill a large hole into your roof guttering that matches the size of your outlet. This ensures that all the rain from your gutter moves seamlessly into your outlet and down the chain.

You then need to glue the outlet into your gutter opening and attach your rain chain.

One advantage to a store-bought rain chain is that it may include an installation kit, meaning you don’t have to worry about purchasing glue or your outlet separately. And after it’s installed, you can place your potted plants, water feature or irrigation system and keep your garden watered sustainably. 

Where is the best place to hang a rain chain?

The best place to hang a rain chain is where your downpipe usually sits, as a sustainable replacement.

Most households usually have more than one downpipe, so you can either replace one or more of them with your rain chain.

Because water runs down the metal links of a rain chain, it usually lets off a musical, splashing sound. But if you don’t like noises while you sleep, it may be best to hang it away from your bedroom window.

A rustic rain chain design.
(Credit: Getty)

Where to buy rain chains

Rain chains can usually be found at gardening centres or even at plant nurseries. There are also a huge range of options online that can fit with any style. Rain chains will usually come with the chain itself, a gutter insert and often a rain chain installation kit that include glue and other supplies needed. 

Here is one of our favourite rain chains available online:

Monarch Rain Chains Akira rain chain via Amazon.

Monarch Rain Chains Akira rain chain, $189.16, Amazon

This decorative rain chain is in the original style of the Japanese ‘kusari doi’, and boy does it look pretty with the rain running through it.

With an included gutter insert and an extra large cup size for heavy rain flow, this rain chain is a great addition to any garden. Plus, the copper colouring would complement green foliage perfectly. 

Can you use a rain chain without gutters?

Surprisingly, you can use a rain chain without gutters. The best way to ensure your rain chain will actually be effective is by assessing how your roof collects and disposes rainwater. 

You can run a hose across your roof for a couple of minutes to see where it pools and falls, or even just wait for a day of rain to come around. Then, place your rain chain according to where the most rain run-off occurs. You can even install several rain chains if needed, and they’ll have a beautiful rainy sound effect during storms. 

Do rain chains work in heavy rain?

Rain chains do work in heavy rain, but they work best when directly attached to a downpipe or gutter. 

Should a rain chain go to the ground?

It’s typically a good idea to have your rain chain anchored in some way so that it won’t move around in heavy rain or wind. It’s also safer when people are in the garden. So make sure you check the length of the design, then decide whether to anchor it to the ground, a pot, water feature or irrigation system.

What to consider before installing a rain chain

While they can be decorative and functional, here are some important factors to keep in mind before you invest in a rain chain:

  • The volume of rain you typically get. Check your water gauge if you have one, or use Bureau of Meteorology data to check your average rainfall. If your area gets a lot of rain, you may want to talk to a licensed plumber, hydraulic consultant or another expert before making any changes to your current guttering system, as there could be other building requirements and codes you need to meet.
  • The type of guttering. If your guttering doesn’t hold a large volume of water, a rain chain could put further pressure on it and lead to damage during heavy rain.
  • How close it is to other structures. Rain chains may splash onto other structures near your house. Over time, that could cause wood to weaken or rot unless you increase maintenance of it.
  • The cost. Rain chain prices can range from around $20 to $200. If you’re not installing it yourself, you may also have to factor in labour costs.
  • Whether it could help with excess water, rather than replace downpipes. As there are requirements around downpipes and stormwater runoff, another way to incorporate rain chains could be to fix them in places you know get excess water during heavy rain. That way, your downpipes can manage the bulk of the rain, with potential help (and aesthetic benefits) of some strategically placed rain chains.

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